Celtics-Thunder review: C's win despite allowing 100


Celtics-Thunder review: C's win despite allowing 100

BOSTON The Boston Celtics broke what has been a cardinal rule for success this season.

They allowed their latest foe, Oklahoma City, to score 100 points.

But for a change, giving up a C-note worth of points didn't cost the Celtics a much-needed victory as they held on to defeat the Thunder, 108-100.

It was the first time this season Boston (7-6) has won a game in which its opponent reached or cleared the 100-point barrier.

While Boston's season-high 108 points is noteworthy, much of the C's offensive success was fueled by their defense that brought a steady level of effort that has not been around much this season.

"It's no secret with us," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "When we get stops, we score. It's no secret."

And it was that offensive punch that catapulted the Celtics to a much-needed victory after losing three of their previous four games. Here are some other keys to Friday night's win outlined prior to the game, and how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Thunder are used to jumping on teams and not looking back. They average 26.3 points scored in the first quarter this season which is the fifth-highest scoring average in the league, while limiting opponents to just 21.8 points.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics found themselves down early as the Thunder opened the game by shooting 60 percent in the first quarter in addition to having an 11-6 advantage on the boards. That fueled a strong start for Oklahoma City which led 28-21 after the first.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Russell Westbrook: Both are among the NBA's best point guards, while getting the job done in their own unique but highly effective way. Rondo and the C's are doing their best to take some of the attention off his double-digit assists streak which is a good thing considering the C's are a .500 club and all the talk should be more about winning than ways in which Rondo can continue to rack up 10 or more assists every night.

WHAT WE SAW: Down the stretch, both players were in position to rack up a triple-double which speaks to just how difficult each was for their opponents defensively. Rondo finished with six points, 16 assists and eight rebounds while Westbrook tallied 26 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul Pierce needs to play better in every sense of the word if the C's are to have any shot against the Thunder. Scoring will be important, but his defense against Kevin Durant and rebounding might be even more valuable. The Celtics are coming off a loss to San Antonio in which Pierce scored 19 points while not hauling in a single rebound. It was only the sixth time in his career he scored 15 or more points without a single rebound to his name.

WHAT WE SAW: Even before Kevin Durant's play was limited some due to foul trouble, Pierce was doing a solid job of defending in and maybe just as important, making Durant work defensively. The Captain finished with a team-high 27 points to go with four rebounds and three steals. Durant was slightly better with a game-high 29 points along with three rebounds. "He (Pierce) has a knack for making the right play," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "But he's a terrific player and a winner and he made plays."

STAT TO TRACK: Keeping the Thunder off the free throw line will be one of the more difficult challenges for the Celtics. Oklahoma City shoots an NBA-best 84.4 percent from the line, and have shot 80 percent or better from the line in each of the last three seasons. Even more impressive is they also lead the NBA in free throws made per game (23.4) and rank second in attempts (27.8).

WHAT WE SAW: Boston delivered one of its better defensive performances, with the result being a limited number of free throw attempts for the Thunder. For the game, Oklahoma City had 24 free throw attempts while successfully converting 21 of them into points.

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK - There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."

Blakely: Jae Crowder is more than 'just another guy' on Celtics

Blakely: Jae Crowder is more than 'just another guy' on Celtics

As the NBA trade deadline gets closer and closer, A. Sherrod Blakely helps shed some light as to why the Boston Celtics may be unwilling to part ways with Jae Crowder